GILROY–The Pajaro Valley High boys’ basketball team came into Tuesday night’s game against Gilroy High riding a four-game winning streak in league play.
But the Mustangs put an end to the Grizzlies’ run, as they galloped their way to a 56-49 victory in Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division play, further distancing themselves from the pack in the league title race.
“That one really hurt,” said Pajaro Valley coach Andre Bailey.
The Grizzlies (8-13, 4-3) sit in third place in the PCAL-Cypress standings behind Gilroy (11-10, 6-1) and St. Francis (13-6, 5-2), which defeated Watsonville High on Tuesday.
The Mustangs earned a Central Coast Section playoff spot, while the Grizzlies need to win at least one more game to earn a shot of getting into the playoffs.
Bailey said they’ll have much better odds if they can win the final three league games of the season. They’ll also need the help of other teams in the CCS.
“Now it’s just about luck,” Bailey said.
Pajaro Valley will begin the journey Saturday afternoon with a game against cross-town rival Watsonville High at 4 p.m., followed by matchups against North Salinas High and Soledad High.
Bailey said the games can go either way depending which team shows up to play.
“It’s not going to be a close one like it was tonight,” Bailey said.
Senior Jaylin Williams, a transfer student who stands at least 6-foot-6 and is built like a tank, paced the Mustangs.
“[The win] was huge, it got us to CCS,” Williams said. “Now we can go to the playoffs and dominate out there, too.”
Williams was all over boards, grabbing at least 15 rebounds and then turning most of them into second-chance points for Gilroy.
“We came out really fast and I loved that,” Williams said. “We kept the pace going over and over.”
Williams said that’s how they got ahead big in the first half. They took a 29-18 lead going into halftime.
The Grizzlies pulled to within five points in the third quarter but the Mustangs extended the lead with a 6-0 run to go up 41-30.
Williams said coach Mike Suarez told them in order to close out the game they had to beat Pajaro Valley’s full-court press with precision passing.
“And that’s what we did,” Williams said.
Suarez said he knew they were facing a great opponent in Pajaro Valley, which had won its previous four games.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task,” Suarez said.
The Grizzlies lost to the Mustangs in their first meeting on Jan. 16 in Watsonville. Suarez said it’s difficult to beat a team twice in the same season.
“Coming in focused and being at home, this was a great win for our whole team and our whole program,” Suarez said.
Suarez said this season is a banner year for them as they march toward a league title for the first time since 2005-06 when it was part of the now-defunct Tri County Athletic League.
A league title might be out of the question for the Grizzlies, but they still have a chance of making the postseason.
They got off to a rocky road to begin PCAL-Cypress play by losing to Gilroy and St. Francis.
Since then, they picked up four straight league victories, including last week’s redemption win at home against the Sharks.
“It’s a big one, they got us the first time,” said Pajaro Valley senior Bryan Gallardo. “We had to defend our home.”
Gallardo said they did a pretty good job of shutting down St. Francis senior Joey Garibay, who still managed to knock in a pair of 3-point shots in last week’s game.
Pajaro Valley senior Christian Quintero said he knows they can deliver on defense, which stepped up during the four-game win streak.
They held opponents to 51 points per game but allowed the Mustangs to score 56 points in Tuesday’s loss.
“We’re not satisfied,” said Quintero after their win against St. Francis. “We still got a lot of work.”
Editor’s Note:This article will be published in the Feb. 7 edition of The Pajaronian.